Thursday, June 25, 2015

Return of THE FORCE to Akron


Northeast Ohio has a long history of Star Wars-themed sporting events. Long before the Rebel Legion or 501st were in existence, my parents used to take me out to the old Richfield Coliseum to watch The Cleveland FORCE indoor soccer team play.  The Cleveland FORCE promotional staff really played on the popularity of the “Star Wars” films; even had the players enter through a giant inflatable Darth Vader with his foot on a soccer ball.  You know that line in Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back when Chris Rock says, "I think George Lucas is gonna sue somebody!" ... well, rumor is, he almost did!

Eventually, The Cleveland FORCE and indoor soccer league folded and the team’s history faded into legend.  That is… until The Akron Rubber Ducks decided to invite Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison, Rancor Clan and The Dark Empire to take part in their “The Richfield Coliseum Strikes Back” promotion. 


The Rubber Ducks put a new twist on the traditional “Star Wars Night” promotion that many minor league baseball teams are doing, and incorporating local fans love for the old Cleveland FORCE indoor soccer team.  The Rubber Ducks wore jerseys that resembled the old Cleveland FORCE uniforms, as well as welcomed former FORCE players: Hector Marinaro, Bruce Miller, Otto Orf, Walter Schlothauer and Mike Sweeney.

Seeing these guys brought back a lot of childhood memories for me: the “Star Wars” theme blasting as the players entered the arena, Kai Haaskivi kicking in a goal and the place would go INSANE! Marinaro (pictured above with me) played for the FORCE briefly in Richfield, then later rejoined the second incarnation of The Cleveland Force in the early 2000s.  In fact, my first (unofficial) Jedi costume was at a Cleveland FORCE game.

Unfortunately, the Force wasn’t with the Rubber Ducks this evening as they lost 7-5 to Erie Sea Wolves; despite a grand slam by Jordan Smith.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Beaumont Children's Hospital


by: flutefreak05

Recently, Great Lakes Base visited Beaumont Children's Hospital in Royal Oak, along with members of the Great Lakes Garrison.  

Our visit with one girl patient was especially memorable.  She was a major Star Wars fan and had a HUGE smile on her face the entire time we visited her.  She told us about her favorite Star Wars movies and the look on her face when she got to hold a REAL lightsaber was priceless!

These troops are always my favorite type of trooping event and we might be doing more visits at this hospital in the next coming months.  Of course, no troop is complete until the big kids get to have some fun.  The Jedi, Darth Vader and a Stormtrooper went to the Garden Room: an indoor library garden, where we posed for photos, read a few good books and had some fun photo ops.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Julie Billiart SPACE DAY


Anyone with kids or knows a teacher understands the end of the school year is a chance to relax and have a little fun before summer recess.  Julie Billiart School decided to have a “space” theme for this year’s play day, and invited Great Lakes Base and Ohio Garrison to help participate in some of the activities.

Julie Billiart School, in Lyndhurst, Ohio, is an alternative K-8 catholic school, which works with children who have special learning needs. In a way, this school is kind of like the Xavier School for Gifted Youngsters from the “X-Men” comics.  As I learned from one of the instructors, the school itself was is housed in a converted mansion. Which today makes these kids X-Wing-Men? (sorry, Rebel Pilot humor)

As it turned out, this was a homecoming of sorts for Fuzzball; who used to attend this school.  Our Jedi alumni supervised the “Yoda Yoga” lesson and other Jedi-themed games the kids were playing.  Meanwhile, I was trained future starfighter pilots before they navigated wheelchairs, dressed up like X-Wings.  The kids would pair up (one steers while the other toss bean bags at targets) while a few teachers and I would shower “asteroids” (balls of paper) as their X-Wings passed by. Meanwhile, our Stormtrooper escorted the groups of students to their respective stages.  At his station, the children would work on their accuracy (ironic, don’t ya think?) by throwing either a 'grenade', a rocket, or using a miniature golf club to swing a ball at a target.  Upon completing all three stations, each 'Jedi Academy student' was given a certificate of achievement.


Many of the kids were even dressed in their Star Wars halloween costumes, and even the ones who didn’t know much about Star Wars were having FUN with all the space-themed games.

It’s tough finding members from volunteer fan groups, who are available for an event request in the middle of a weekday. Yet even a small crew of dedicated individuals can bring smiles to kids faces… and at the heart of it all “it’s what we do!”

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Motor City Comic Con and back again


Motor City Comic Con has been a landmark event since before Great Lakes Base even existed.  Some of my earliest and fondest memories of trooping have involved a roadtrip up to Michigan for the annual comic book convention and assembly of Rebel Legion and 501st members.  The convention has grown significantly over the years and Great Lakes Base has had to grow along with it.

Because of travelling for Star Wars Celebration, for budget reasons Snips and I elected to attend this year’s Motor City in a single day-trip on Saturday; like in the old days.  Early on a Saturday morning, we loaded up the car and plotted our “navicomputer” for the Novi (just outside of Detroit) system.  Driving with a GPS for Motor City Comic Con is somewhat ironic, because after so many years of making this pilgrimage up to the Suburban Collection Showcase (home of MCCC) would be something we could do on memory alone? We probably could… but as a Luke Skywalker fan, “I like to keep it on Manual Control for a while.” 

photo by: Anna Rossman
Once we found parking and get inside the convention hall, the thing that struck me the most is how jam-packed the show floor is with vendors, artist and celebrity guests.  Motor City has always been known for booking a wide selection of guests from your favorite TV shows, movies and even wrestling.  This year, Jeremy Bulloch -- Rebel Legion Honorary Member and “Boba Fett” from the Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi – was in attendance.  I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Bulloch and his wife at several events over the years; but it’s fun to watch the NEW members get to meet him for the first time.  There was even a significant number Ohio Mercs from Rancor Clan who drove up just to see the original Mandalorian bounty hunter.

In addition to meeting some of your favorite sci-fi/comic book stars, another great thing about Motor City Con is the Star Wars fan group area – which Great Lakes Base shares with Great Lakes Garrison, R2-Builders and Suumpir’ade Clan.  Motor City Comic Con has always been one of the largest assembly of Star Wars costumers from Michigan and Ohio – but also nearby Garrisons and Bases from other states.  The group picture on Saturday has become something of an event in it’s own right.  They almost need to include it on the event program schedule.  Anytime you bring close to 50+ Star Wars costumers together in one place, it tends to draw a large crowd of people with cameras.  

photo by: Kristie Johnson

Even after all these years, the Star Wars groups remain a BIG HIT with fans attending Motor City Comic Con!

In between photo shots and running to get in line for your favorite guest autograph or panel, the other great thing about Motor City Comic Con is that it is a chance to meet fellow GLB and GLG members that you normally only interact with on the boards or facebook.  As I talked with some of our newest GLB members, it occurred to me that many of the people I remember from past MCCC conventions have long since retired from Star Wars costuming.  I don’t mention this as a “sad” thing (quite the opposite) because it means these NEW generation of Rebel Legion members are just beginning to build their own “Motor City Comic Con” memories!  And that is something I look forward to driving up next year to hear about.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Walk for Wishes


by: Vebb Baraka

photo by Kristie Johnson
This past weekend at the Detroit Zoo, Great Lakes Base members joined our counterparts from the Great Lakes Garrison to troop the 2015 Southeast Michigan Walk for Wishes.  This was the 17th annual event, and serves as one of the biggest fundraisers for the Make a Wish Foundation of Michigan, which grants about one wish per day for medically eligible children in the state of Michigan. 

It was a gorgeous day for a walk at the zoo, and we helped set the mood for the event by mingling with participants, posing for picture, and even leading the dance party prior to the opening ceremonies.  We even got to appear in a live news brief that featured one of the Make a Wish Foundation “Wish Kids.”  It was a great day of spreading smiles and making memories to help a great cause. 

The event enjoyed record breaking attendance with over 4,500 participants who helped to raise more than $450,000 for the Make a Wish Foundation of Michigan, making it their largest fundraiser of the year, as well as one of the biggest Make a Wish fundraisers in the country.

The Dudas Abides


I have been doing this “Star Wars” thing for a long time!  Have been trooping with Rebel Legion for just over 10 years; longer if you count the days under the banner of the local Fanforce chapter.  As a result, there are certain events (and hosts) which have become not just annual tradition – but in some cases, long-time friends.


The Free Comic Book Day midnight release party at Carol and John’s Comic Book Shop is one of those times!

Free Comic Book Day is a nationwide initiative to promote reading, where comic book publishers issue special editions of popular comic books that are FREE (hence the name of the event) to pickup at comic shops and libraries all across the country.  What makes FCBD at Carol and John’s so unique is that they host an annual celebration the night before, with local comic fans lined up around the block, leading up to midnight when the doors open and fans can be the first to pickup their FCBD comics.  I’m 100% serious: there are people lined up as early as 4:00pm for comic books that will be available al over Cleveland the following morning.

photo courtesy: cleveland.com
Yet it’s NOT just a race to get your hands on the latest comic book that makes FCBD at Carol and John’s so special… it is the party-like atmosphere that draws the “true believers” to Kamm’s Corner; and that’s where we come in.  Every year, John Dudas (the “John” in Carol and John’s) invites Great Lakes Base, Ohio Garrison, Rancor Clan and joining us this year was Heroes Alliance to help entertain the crowd waiting outside.  As you’d expect, we take A LOT of pictures with people; many of them wearing costumes of their own.  Over the years, I’ve start to recognize faces in the crowd, because of the loyal following Carol and John’s has among the comic book community in Cleveland.

GLB "Mission Photos" - Carol and John's FCBD

At 10:00pm the “official” party begins!  In addition to the store being open late, Carol and John’s also uses an empty store as an “artist’s row” – with various local comic artists selling sketch art they create that evening.  There is also an art gallery, with comic book related artwork, available for sale.  Carol and John’s also works with local brewers to create special craft beers for the occasion; this year’s bottles were themed after the release of “Avengers: Age of Ultron.”

Eventually, the clock strikes 12:00 and fans pickup their favorite FCBD comic books!  I have been trooping FCBD at Carol and John’s for as long as I can remember and look forward to it every year!  John Dudas and Carol (his mother) are two of my favorite people to work with in planning events in the “Cleveland” system. Only 51 weeks to go until Free Comic Book Day 2016…

The Dudas Abides!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Help UofM Coach Harbaugh, you're my only hope!


by: MiraxTHorn

In my time as a member of both the Rebel and 501st Legions, I've been blessed to troop in at least six states and a wide variety of events.  I have so many wonderful memories of days spent putting smiles on the faces of kids, both young and old.  But on Saturday, May 2nd, the biggest smile of the night was put on MY face due to a chance encounter with someone I've admired for about 28 years.  Let me explain how this encounter came about.

Have you heard of the Wolverines Trooper?  Jon “Blasty” Leopold is a University of Michigan SUPER FAN, as well as a member of the Great Lakes Base and Great Lakes Garrison.  Over the last several years, Jon has become a popular fixture at Michigan sporting events wearing stormtrooper armor fully decorated in UofM Maize and Blue.  His popularity and persistence convinced the athletic department to host a “Star Wars Night” at a Wolverines men's baseball game.  The event proceeded as most do, with lots of photos, happy kids and Darth Vader throwing out the first pitch.  The costumers wandered the concourse as we typically do and participated in a t-shirt toss between innings. 



About halfway through the game, Blasty suggested some of us go walk around the stands between innings to pump up the crowd.  He walked toward an entrance tunnel so I followed along.  Out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a face I immediately recognized as Jim Harbaugh, the newly hired Michigan Football coach.  I grabbed Blasty's arm, exclaimed "It's Jim!" and we headed back out of the tunnel to try to get a photo with him!

The Coach was gracious and willingly granted our request for a photo, though he was a little baffled by our costumes.  I explained that it was "Star Wars Night at the ball park".  Our photo op quickly drew the crowd's attention and the Coach was bombarded with photo and autograph requests.  Blasty was able to get Jim's autograph on a Wolverines Trooper trading card and to give the Coach one of his cards as well.

As for that huge smile I mentioned, I stood around after our photo grinning like an idiot.  I have been a lifelong Wolverine, in fact: I was born on campus, and I have also been a Harbaugh fan for almost as long.  Jim Harbaugh was Michigan's QB when I first started watching football.  I followed his career from Michigan to Chicago to Indianapolis and then into coaching.  I held my breath with the Michigan Nation the first time Jim's name came up in the search for a new coach.  And I rejoiced when he was finally announced as the head coach late last year.  This is a man I have admired from afar for a very long time and I finally got to meet him!  I'm still grinning today! 

This is an event I will never forget!